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The Immigration Story of Morris J. Haugg (German immigrant)

The Museum reviews and accepts donated personal or family memories and histories into its collection. As a learning institution, the accounts help us understand how individuals recollect, interpret, or construct meaning from lived experiences. The stories are not modified by Museum staff. The point of view expressed is that of the author and not that of the Museum.

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May 10 1960
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Morris J. Haugg, Q.C

September 16, 2003

I am a Pier 21 Alumni and I am pleased to say also a current member. My name is on the Wall of Honour. I have been reluctant to tell my Pier 21 story because I always thought it was so much less interesting then the ones I heard about during my visit to the Pier21 Museum.

I changed my mind after reading through the last issue of Passages. In particular the article on Mr. Arthur Vaughn, a Customs Officer from 1945-1965, motivated me to write this memoir.

Most immigrants arrived at Pier 21 by boat, from different parts of the world, and then departed after processing very shortly thereafter to different parts of Canada. My story is a little different. Not only did I come a different way, (by train) and from a different direction (from Quebec), but I also stayed there longer then most who passed through Pier 21. I arrived on the Seven Seas and we docked and I was processed by Canada Immigration on May 10th, 1960, in Quebec City early in the morning. My ticket was good to Montreal so I went back onto the ship and arrived at Montreal the next day. My ultimate destination was Easter Canada and therefore I already had a ticket in my pocket to take the train from Montreal to Halifax. First, however, I wanted to see something of this big city, the first major North American city that I had a chance to visit. I stared with awe at the huge buildings, particularly the Sun Life building which was at one time the tallest building in the entire British Empire. After spending one night in Montreal, and looking around and feeling somewhat lost I decided to start my journey to Halifax. I had a wonderful trip on the train and I arrived late Friday afternoon May 13th. I reported to Pier21 by Taxi, leaving my big ship trunk and other luggage at the train station. Because it was late in the afternoon on a Friday, no processing could take place and I was shown to a bunk and told where the kitchen was and asked to make myself at home until the following Monday morning.

Besides different types of employees in the building I as the only immigrant. I found that very strange because there were these huge rooms with bunks and showers and rows of toilets and the kitchen had facilities to feed 100 and yet I was the only one in the whole place. Everyone was very friendly of course and the food was great, even though some of it was unfamiliar to me. I distinctly remember that that is the first time I ate green jello for dessert.

We had no shower in the home where I grew up so the shower facilities at Pier 21 were again a wonderful amenity that I enjoyed as often as possible. I spent the weekend roaming around the city on foot and having various strange and enjoyable experiences, which are not really important to this story.

On Monday morning I reported to an office where my papers were being processed and I was introduced to a Customs/Immigration Officer who then took me under his wing and asked me what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. This man may well have been the Arthur Vaughan that was featured in the last issue of Passages. He was a very pleasant and really fatherly and very helpful. He read my file and from it he knew that I had worked ina factory and therefore he offered me a job in that direction. He also offered to give me a job in a restaurant where somebody was looking for a young immigrant. I should say at this point that I came entirely on my own and I was barely 18 years old. I had no relatives or acquaintances or anyone whim I knew in Canada so the help that I got from the Immigration Officer at Pie 21 was essential. I had indicated in my immigration papers that I wanted to work on a farm. So when I didn't sound too enthusiastic about the factory and restaurant job we reviewed the farm opportunities that were available to me. Eventually we picked a location and the Immigration Officer offered to take me there. I wanted him to also take my ship trunk and luggage. That he refused to do. He said he only had a little English car not a big Mercedes like the cars I was used to in Germany. Little did he know that in my family we didn't own a car so that his car was quite luxurious to me. Arrangements were made for my ship's trunk to be shipped to Amherst, Nova Scotia by train because it is on a farm near there where I chose to locate.

The Customs Officer then drove me from Halifax to Amherst via Tatamagouche when he called in upon one of his wards another young man whom he had helped to settle in the northern part of Nova Scotia.

Eventually we reached the farm destination on the outskirts of Amherst and he deposited me there with some last minute words of advice and an invitation to contact him anytime if I needed to know anything or if I needed any help. I was too excited to think that I would have any questions or any further requests but it was not the last time I saw my Immigration Officer. About six weeks later I was painting a sign at the front of the farmhouse and a car stopped and a gentleman in a uniform got out and asked me how I was doing. At first I didn't recognize the man but the more questions he asked me about how I liked the place and whether I was happy there I realized that it was my Immigration Officer. He had come by to check on me. I felt really wonderful about that. I was pleased to tell him that everything was fine and that I was being treated well and that I was very happy in Canada. That is the last time I had anything to do with Immigration Canada. It was many, many years later after I had gone through university and had graduated from law school and had to be in Halifax on some occasion that I realized that the Pier 21 that everyone was talking about was the place where I had landed and where I had gotten so much help to get a good start in Canada.

Incidentally, I am now 61 years old and the senior partner of a seven-person law firm in Amherst, Nova Scotia. I am married with two children and three and a half grandchildren. Needless to say, I never regretted coming to Canada.

The following is another version of Mr. Haugg's immigration story.
A Pier 21 Story

When I immigrated to Canada in May of 1960, I had booked passage on the "Seven Seas " and landed in Montreal on May 11th. The day before we had stopped at Quebec City, where our landed immigrant papers were processed.

Unlike all other immigrants on board (as best I could determine) I did not head west. My destination was Nova Scotia. So I arrived at Pier 21 by train, coming from the west. I am not sure that anyone had ever done that before. The huge halls and sleeping quarters were empty. Besides various staff, I was the only person there. The only person to be hosted in aspacious dining room, supported by a kitchen that could "feed an army ".

Because I arrived late on a Friday afternoon, I spent the weekend at Pier 21. I used the time to get acquainted with Halifax. I had a wonderful time. There are two small experiences of that weekend which are amusing, but which illustrate what can happen to a newcomer to a country with limited language skills.

Coming from beer-loving Bavaria, it was only natural that I would take a break in my sight-seeing of Halifax by enjoying a beer. I entered a restaurant, sat in one of the booths and asked for a beer. First the waitress explained to me that I was not allowed to have a beer unless I ordered a meal. I was 18 and always hungry, so that was not a problem. I said "hot dog, please " and solved the problem. Or so I thought. She next asked me whether I wa a miner. I was really puzzled. I couldn't understand what my occupational pursuits had to do with ordering a beer. Furthermore, I was dressed in my best blue suit, white shirt and tie. My face and hands were cleaner than they ever were in Bavaria. My shoes were polished. I didn't answer. I didn't know what to say. Next the waitress - and she was pleasant enough - asked for identification. I produced my brand-new passport, to which was attached my three-day old land immigrant card. She took a quick look, concluded that I was a miner after all and walked off.

After a few minutes she brought me a hot dog and glass with a colourless, odourless liquid, which I did not touch. I thought she must have made a mistake. I didn't order that glass. She never explained why I did not deserve a beer. I wondered whether I should have pretended to be a miner to get one. I ate my hot dog and left.

On Monday I told my immigration officer. He laughed his head off. He explained the difference between a "miner " and a "minor ", a word I had not known. He also apologized for Canada's archaic liquor laws. He knew that that was a tough thing for Europeans to adapt to in this country. Well I didn't make that mistake again.

That same weekend, as I passed through the railway statiohn, a basket of beautiful red apples caught my eye. I grew up with apples. I had not eaten one in several weeks. I craved an apple. So I proceeded to buy one. My language skills or lack of them got me into trouble again. I ended up with the whole basket. Prices were low in those days, but I did not have much money. As I walked back to Pier 21, hugging a large paper bag full of apples, it weighed heaview on my mind that in my arms. I felt somewhat inadequate, almost incompetent. Was I really ready for this new country? What was going to be my next big mistake? Except for a gallon of soft ice cream about a week later at Amherst Dairy Queen, I did not make too may more - at least not of that variety. Actually, these "mistakes " have ripened into fond memories.

Morris J. Haugg